“Dig Where You are Standing” Malchow: A sub-camp of Ravensbrück
The following text is the original work of a tenth-grade class from the Fritz Reuter Realschule in Malchow. It was submitted to the contest “Memorial Work in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania” in 1997, where it won second prize. The text is shown as the students wrote it, without corrections.
Survey of Students at the Fritz Reuter School
Our Fritz Reuter School is located in a new development in Malchow, near a housing estate that served as quarters for forced labor from 1939 to 1945. At the edge of this camp was a satellite of Ravensbrück concentration camp, which existed from 1943 to 1945. We conducted a survey to measure what students knew about this concentration camp.
Every student in our class was asked to survey another class. We asked three questions:
1. What is a concentration camp?
2. Where were the concentration camps?
3. Was there a concentration camp in Malchow?
The last question was the most important and the one that started it all.
On Friday, October 24, 1997, we asked students in seventeen classes the questions listed above. There were 321 students in these seventeen classes. The students responded anonymously and without preparation.
In analyzing the results of the survey for questions one and two, we considered the different levels of knowledge by age and grade. When students in the fifth and sixth grades knew something about prisoners and the killings, we judged the question as precisely answered. Students in the ninth and tenth grades had to know more about chronology and had to give more information about prisoners.
We discovered the following results (see attached diagrams):
– Grades five, six and seven frequently knew very little with regard to questions one and two. However, in response to question three, 37 percent knew that there had been a concentration camp in Malchow.
– Grades eight and nine could give more precise responses to question one. But forty-nine percent of the students could not answer question two and did not know that there was a concentration camp in Malchow.
– Grade ten could not answer question one precisely. All students knew the names of at least two concentration camps in response to question two. Unfortunately, most students (75 percent) did not know that there was a concentration camp in Malchow.
This survey revealed that the history of Malchow has been consigned to oblivion. We want to change that.
The Armaments Factory Malchow
The Nazi seizure of power in 1933 led to rearmament within two years. Throughout Germany, new factories opened for the production of armaments and explosives. One of these factories was in Malchow.
Construction of the explosives factory began in 1938. This project had the code name “Albion” and came under the jurisdiction of the military high command. Malchow belonged to the Dynamit-Aktien-Gesellschaft DAG) [Dynamite joint-stock company]. The highly effective explosive substance, Nitropenta, was to be manufactured there. The total monthly production consisted of 450 tons of explosive. In 1944, annual production of the explosives was 3,125 tons. In 1943, construction of the Malchow arms factory was completed. The location was selected by military criteria. The factory was located 2 kilometers west of Malchow, west of Plauer Lake, with a highway (now Bundesstraße 192 / Malchow-Karow) to the northeast, and bordered on the south by the Malchow-Lenz Road. The building was well located, with direct connections to the railroad and highway. Two hundred thirty-nine forced laborers from seven nations worked in the Malchow armaments factory. Since 1943-44, the workers included concentration camp prisoners (Catholics, Protestants, Sinti and Roma, Jews, and political prisoners). A total of 41 armaments factories were built in Germany, and Malchow was one of them.
Chronicle of Terror
Adolf Hitler became Chancellor on January 30, 1933. In March 1933, a new system of concentration camps was created in many localities throughout Germany. By July, there were already fifty concentration camps with about 27,000 “protective custody prisoners.” In 1934, the camp system was refined to include forced labor and killing. The concentration camps were intended to hold arrested political opponents in Schutzhaft [protective detention], especially members of the outlawed Arbeiterparteien [workers’ parties]. The official rationale was that the prisoners needed to be protected from the “gesunden Volksempfinden” [“healthy spirit of the people”]. Actually, the Third Reich wanted to incarcerate political opponents indefinitely without a trial. On September 15, 1935, the Reich Citizenship Law and the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor were passed. These laws, also known as the Nuremberg Laws, removed civil rights from German Jews and prohibited marriages between Jews and Germans.
From 1936 to 1944, there were 28 main concentration camps with nearly 1,000 subsidiary or satellite camps throughout occupied Europe [see Maps]. There were sixteen concentration and labor camps in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, including Malchow, Ravensbrück, Rostock Schwarzforst and many others. Apart from political opponents, these camps included the so-called “work shy,” “the racially inferior,” priests, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and homosexuals. Jews comprised a relatively large group of prisoners and they were to be killed as racially “subhuman.” For most prisoners, detention in a concentration camp was a journey through hell. Processing rituals on arrival were brutal. Prisoners were confronted daily by SS brutalities, inhumane labor quotas, and inadequate nutrition in the concentration camps.
There was strict punishment for any infringement of the regulations. The inmates rapidly understood the aims of their detention: exploitation, humiliation, disintegration, and destruction.
Forced Labor in Germany
Because most men were at the front, and because women could not completely make up the disparity within the labor force, an inadequate labor supply existed in Germany at the beginning of the war.
Therefore, the Germans instituted forced labor throughout occupied Europe. The workers came from Poland, France, the Soviet Union, the Netherlands, and Belgium. They were employed primarily in the armaments industry, in agriculture, and other skilled trades.
In 1945, the number of forced laborers was very high. A total of 7.6 million workers were utilized in German factories. This was every fifth worker. They had to work sixty-hour weeks or about ten-hour shifts every day. Few of the workers received wages. Supplies of food and pharmaceuticals depended upon their “racial” category. The Russians received less than the Dutch or Belgians. Thus, every second Russian perished.
The Concentration Camp in Malchow
There are ten barracks on the terrain of the concentration camp, and each barrack housed 100 women. This means that the camp was originally built for 1,000 women. But the camp grew, and by 1945, there were 5,000 women in the camp. Eyewitnesses reported that a transport of 1,000 concentration camp prisoners with 65 guards arrived in Malchow on November 24, 1944. They had traveled on a so-called death march for several weeks. Malchow was used as a transit camp at this time. The prisoners had come from Ravensbrück and were to be taken to Wismar. There they were to be placed on barges that would be sunk. Elisabeth Lynhard had experienced this kind of death march. Together with other prisoners, she was taken from Ravensbrück on April 28, 1945, and marched to the north. She was to have been transported to Malchow and drowned on the “high seas.” She experienced many battles as the Soviet Army was only several kilometers to the rear. There was no stopping to rest, since speed was essential. The Red Army was friendly to the camp prisoners. Lynhard was liberated on May 1 and thus never arrived in Malchow. The war ended for her on a very happy holiday and gave her some confidence about the future.
It is believed that Malchow concentration camp existed from the winter of 1943 to May 2, 1945 (the date of liberation). In the summer of 1943, the camp terrain was surrounded by a high fence. The ten barracks there were originally used for the construction workers. There was a washroom with warm water, a bicycle stand, and a toilet. The prisoners had to stand for daily roll call, which lasted several hours. They were guarded by SS women guards and their German shepherd dogs. The SS female guards were cruel to the prisoners. One of the worst was the SS wardress Dantz. She was transferred from Ravensbrück to Malchow and became commandant. The prisoners barely received anything to eat and they had to kneel on sharp gravel stones. Body searches and beatings were routine.
Although the residents of Malchow were not to have any contact with the prisoners, some townspeople provided prisoners with food, such as raspberries, and rolls with lard and salt. When they were discovered, they too were sent to a concentration camp.
Provisions in the concentration camp were very bad. There was very little food and in 1945, the prisoners barely received any rations at all. They occasionally got leftover scraps from the SS kitchen, unpeeled potatoes and turnips or potato skin soup. The prisoners wore wooden shoes without stockings, and they had no coats during the winter. There were many epidemics and diseases in the camp, such as tuberculosis and typhus. Most of the prisoners were malnourished and many weighed only around 40 kg. (88 lbs.).
They had to perform hard physical labor, such as producing mines, collecting nettles from the children’s playground, cleaning the factory and the town, building canals for the hospital in Malchow, and doing horticultural work.
On May 2, 1945, the Red Army liberated the camp. Some of the survivors lived in Malchow after liberation and requested help with food and clothing.
The results of our questionnaire reveal that many students knew nothing about the camp. We assembled extensive materials about the concentration camp in our project.
Since 1995, the town of Malchow has been trying to write the history of the concentration camp. During the summer 1997, there was a youth work camp in Malchow. Between July 6 and July 20, 1997, many youngsters (mostly from England) did archeological digging to uncover the remains of the Malchow concentration camp. They dug to determine where reinforced concrete pieces, water pipes and barrack foundations could be found. A power shovel was used to locate the foundations more quickly. These volunteer archeologists found a great deal, but the chronological relationship of the objects was not always clear.
We feel that the information about the concentration camp should be presented to our classmates and teachers. We are therefore proposing that:
– We want to present the results of our project to the assembled teachers.
– This material should be distributed to all interested classes and grades.
– The flyer worksheet that we prepared should be used by all students in classroom instruction as well as during hikes [see Documents].
– Based on our work, a sign should be made that visually summarizes the history of the camp.
With this work, we hope to turn a forgotten place into a place of remembrance.